by David Frawley
Of course, the greatest possible distortions are relative to the Advaitic Guru. Since Advaita relies less on outer marks than other traditions, almost anyone can claim to be an Advaitic Guru, particularly once we have removed Advaita from any tradition of Vedanta or Yoga. In much of neo-Advaita, there is a rush to become gurus and give satsangs, even without much real study or practice.
While certainly even a beginning student can teach the basics of Advaita for the benefit of others, to quickly set oneself up as a Self-realized guru raises a lot of questions. One can have an experience of the Self, while the full realization may yet be far away. Full Self-realization is neither easy nor common, under any circumstances.
Advaita does emphasize the advantage of instruction from a living Self-realized guru. Many people therefore think that they must have a living Self-realized guru or they can’t practice Self-inquiry. This is not the case either.
If one has access to genuine teachings, like those of Ramana, and follows them with humility and self-discipline, one can progress far on the path, which will lead them to further teachers and teachings as needed.
On the other hand, in the rush to get a living Self-realized guru, students may get misled by those who claim Self-realization but may not really have it. Such false gurus cannot lead students very far and may take them in a wrong direction altogether.
A related misconception is that Advaitic realization can only be gained as a direct transmission from a living teacher, as if Self-realization depended upon a physical proximity to one who has it.
Practice may get reduced to hanging out around the so-called guru and waiting for his glance! The presence of a real sadhak does indeed aid one’s practice, but physical proximity to gurus is no substitute for one’s own inner practice. And physical proximity to those who don’t have true realization may not bring much of benefit at all.
If Self-realization were as easy as coming into physical proximity with the teacher, most of the thousands who visited Ramana would have already become Self-realized.
If the teaching had to come from a living guru only, then no teachings would be preserved after the guru died as these would no longer be relevant. So the realization behind the guru and the depth of his teaching is more important than whether he is in a physical body or not. A great guru leaves teachings for many generations and his influence is not limited by the lifetime of his physical body. A lesser guru, on the other hand, does not have much real transformative influence even if we spend a lifetime around him.
In addition, true Advaitic gurus are not always easy to find, nor do they always make themselves prominent in the external world. Like Ramana, many great gurus are quiet, silent and withdrawn. We can best find them by karmic affinity from our own practice, not by external searching or running after personalities.
Extract from : Misconceptions about Advaita by David Frawley